Congress Imbroglio: Maken’s resignation and its fallout

Ajay Maken has based his resignation move on the pedestal of morality and propriety which is a rare commodity in today’s politics
"There is no denying the fact that this issue lies at the core of Mr Maken taking a drastic step."
"There is no denying the fact that this issue lies at the core of Mr Maken taking a drastic step."Special arrangement

Normally reticent, loath to the political controversies and groupings, and circumspect to the core so for his politics is concerned, veteran Congress leader, Mr Ajay Maken stirred a hornet’s nest by resigning as the party in-charge of Rajasthan in the midst of Mr Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. More so, he chose to make his November 8 resignation public after a week and that too when the march was due to enter the desert state. And, the all-important Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections announced.

On the face of it, the first reaction would be to directly link this with the ongoing controversy in Rajasthan Congress concerning replacement of chief minister Mr Ashok Gehlot with Mr Sachin Pilot. There is no denying the fact that this issue lies at the core of Mr Maken taking a drastic step. But there are other facets and aspects related to the development.    

Definitely, in his resignation letter Mr Maken has cited the developments of September 25 when a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) was convened in Jaipur to take a call on Mr Gehlot’s continuation. Interestingly, the central team of observers to oversee this meeting was led by the then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha who subsequently became Congress president - Mr Malikarjun Kharge. On the contrary, the Gehlot camp not only boycotted the CLP meeting but held a parallel gathering at the residence of Parliamentary Affairs Minister and a close Gehlot confidant, Mr Shanti Dhaliwal’s house. It caused huge embarrassment to the octogenarian Mr Kharge as to Mr Maken.

With this backdrop, Mr Maken has based his resignation move on the pedestal of morality and propriety which is a rare commodity in today’s politics. Nonetheless, it has much wider connotations than proving his own point. There is a bigger question of redemption of not only the prestige of the Congress but more importantly salvaging the position of its new president Mr Kharge through show of authority. Apart from the fact that the CLP meeting was sabotaged, none from either the Gehlot cabinet or the organization came to receive the observers at the airport.

Though there was no fallout of this unsavoury episode immediately but the entire context changed once the Congress high command made the chief minister of Rajasthan as election in charge in Gujarat. The issue of disciplinary action against three Congress leaders of the state, Mr Dhaliwal, chief whip in the Assembly Mr Mahesh Joshi and State Tourism Development Corporation chairman Mr Dharmendra Rathore, who were instrumental in playing a leading role in organizing a parallel meeting of the MLAs, also fell aside. The show cause notices issued to them remained inconsequential that added to Mr Maken’s ire.

The question arises why has Mr Maken resigned as in-charge Rajasthan at a crucial juncture? Obviously, up till now he was displeased over the unresolved issues. But the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ seemed to have added a new dimension that further hastened the process of his dissociation from Rajasthan affairs. It was understandable that as in charge of the state, efforts were being made at the AICC levels asking him to oversee preparedness in the state.

A rather dichotomous situation seemed to have developed leading to the Congress imbroglio entering a fresh phase. The three Rajasthan leaders who were issued show-cause notice by the AICC instead have been given key duties in organizing the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in the state with one of them Mr Rathore having travelled with Mr Gehlot to meet Mr Rahul Gandhi at some point during his walkathon. So, Mr Maken stayed away from the meetings of the task-force entrusted with the arrangements of the yatra.

 Was it all happening without the knowledge of the state in charge?

Under the circumstances Mr Maken’s predicament is best reflected in his own resignation letter as he felt morally incapacitated to lead the same set of persons with his head high. On the other side Mr Kharge is also faced with a similar predicament. Rather than acting to see his authority as president restored and strengthened, he perhaps thought of swallowing the bitter pill “in the interest of the party”.

There is yet another interesting aside to Mr Maken’s letter. Many might have thought it to be the footnote but others might view it in the context of ongoing transitional struggle in the Congress. “Wedded to the ideology of Congress for the last three generations and being in active Congress politics for over 40 years, I will always remain an ardent follower of Rahul ji, whom I trust and have faith in beyond words,” he says in the closing lines of the letter.

Does that reflect Mr Rahul Gandhi’s tacit understanding? Or was this meant to convey some message to the current AICC dispensation? Apparently, this does not seem to be so but there are always subtleties and nuances in politics.

What does it (the footnote) entail? Firstly, it dismisses the impression gathered by his detractors in the party and outside that his resignation as in-charge Rajasthan could be a prelude to a bigger move ahead in this season of desertions. Secondly, there is an expression of dissatisfaction with the present leadership of the party on the manner in which the Rajasthan affairs have been dealt with post September 25 particularly when the person in the center of action Mr Kharge became the party president after that.

It was obvious after that the first priority of the party high command would be to secure the Rajasthan Government. It was natural for them to keep Mr Gehlot in good humour. However, in the process the leadership instead of stamping its authority and harping on a route to critically balance the situation ended up playing into the hands of Mr Gehlot.

As Mr Kharge took over as the party president, it was known that he has to trudge on a bumpy road. The challenges were galore to test his nerves. But this one not only came sooner than expected but the one that involves redemption of his own position. No system could be run without authority and who better to know this than Mr Kharge with decades of experience behind him.

What bearing could this development have for Congress in MCD elections since Mr Maken is a senior party leader in Delhi? As it is he is not into thick of action, for reasons better known to the party high command, from poll preparedness point of view. But the fact that he has a proven and clean track-record as a Minister in the Union Urban Development Ministry that directly interested Delhi, his disassociation would hurt the party and help the opposition. It is another matter that he has in his resignation letter expressed desire to work for Delhi in collaboration with “NGOs and Trade Unions”.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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